A reader recently asked on Twitter, “Based on The Treasure Principle, I wonder if you oppose life insurance that is greater than the amount needed to pay for a funeral?”
Life insurance is actually death insurance, because it’s payable upon the death of the insured. The major purpose of life insurance is to replace the provider’s income. If you’ve ever sat through an insurance sales presentation, you know that the agent will explain how you must have a certain amount of insurance in order for your dependents to be taken care of at your present standard of living (allowing for inflation) for another five, ten, or twenty years after your death. Typically, the agent will summarize the results on a computer printout, suggesting a huge amount of coverage requiring large insurance premiums.
But where does God fit into all this? If a man dies tomorrow, it seems reasonable in this economy to have a moderate amount of funds designated to care for many of his family’s basic needs. On the other hand, to supply them with a huge chunk of money to be appropriated over the next fifteen years until his children are grown, and another thirty years until his wife may die, seems like too much. If life insurance is appropriate, its purpose should be to provide for a family for a season, not to protect them against any and every eventuality, and certainly not to profit them by their loved one’s departure.
I’ve had distraught unemployed men tell me that due to their large life insurance policies they’re worth more to their family dead than alive. One of them seriously contemplated suicide for this exact reason. Something’s terribly wrong when a man’s most effective avenue of material provision for his family is his own death.
When I die, I don’t want our church to say, “Randy was a good provider—all his wife’s needs are taken care of.” I want them to realize that my wife does have needs and will continue to have them. Yes, I may have seen to some of her ongoing material needs through a house, some savings, some retirement funds, and a modest life insurance policy. But she’ll need the ongoing help and support and wisdom and counsel and encouragement of the church, just as my children would have when they were younger. In fact, at some point my loved ones might need material help as well. Would that be so terrible? Isn’t it OK to sometimes need help from others in Christ’s body?
Time and time again, I’ve seen Christians keep their distance from hurting brothers and sisters because they believe the insurance company, government, hospice, or some benevolence organization is taking care of them. When it comes to caring for their needy, even some of the pseudo-Christian cults put evangelicals to shame.
Life insurance agents don’t account for many things that could and probably will happen over the next five, ten, or twenty years. Not the least of these, I hope, would be my wife’s remarriage. Of course, this isn’t certain, and it might take several years. (And I’m grateful she hasn’t already picked someone out!) I believe it’s often unhealthy for a woman to bring a large amount of money into a second marriage. Although many men have failed to provide life insurance that would have been a big help to their wives, many others have provided so much that it actually works against them. (For instance, children can be hurt when they are lavished with many possessions and vacations that the family couldn’t afford when Dad was alive.)
Our children need to know that God is the One who will meet their needs. Having enough insurance to be responsible is one thing. But playing God by factoring in every conceivable future scenario, and thereby over insuring, is another.
Because no parallels to the kinds of insurance policies we buy today are mentioned in Scripture, it’s impossible to prove that life insurance is right or wrong. Some would consider insurance as a legitimate way of providing for their family. Others see it as a lack of dependence on God. The sin of presumption could be committed in either case.
Our own choice has been to use insurance sparingly. Naturally, Nanci and I buy insurance when it’s legally required. We’ve never had disability or mortgage insurance. Our ministry provides a life insurance policy. (Normally, with a few exceptions, term insurance makes more financial sense than whole life.)
In short, we do have insurance—more than some, less than others. We want to be responsible, yet leave plenty of room for God. We also want to be able to use the money for God’s kingdom that would otherwise go to pay additional premiums.
I’m not trying to set a standard for others to follow. Everyone must measure his or her own situation and convictions, following Christ’s lead as best they can discern it.
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